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What to Say When a Friend's Loved One Dies by Suicide

If you've got a love for one you may be wondering how to be there for them. You're not alone. In 2017, 47,173 people in the United States died by suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leaving behind loved ones in need of solace as they grieve and attempt to heal. Although suicide is tragically common, it is a society that is often especially with those who are survivors of suicide loss.

"Because of the taboo and stigma attached historically to [19459114AlanWolfeltPhDfounder-directorofthe Center for Loss and Life Transition at Fort Collins, says, "Too many people think that they should not bring it up at all," grief counselor and educator. Colorado, tells SELF.

This can give your friend the devastating and isolating sense that they've been abandoned at a time when they most need support. Survivors [can] [can] Vanessa McGann Ph.D., [can] Friends and family members, [can] suicide loss division chair for the American Association of Suicidology, tells SELF.

Choosing to talk about your friend's loss despite any uncertainty, helplessness or discomfort you may feel is an act of love.

The following phrases may offer comfort

. 1 "I'm so sorry for your loss."

This is a good sentiment to express when a loved one dies from any cause, including suicide. Yes, losing one loved one to suicide can be different from other kinds of death in various ways. But your friend has suffered a grave loss either way. perpetuate stigma around suicide.

"The first thing is not to treat suicide as it's so weird or different or special that you do not say anything, "Clinical psychologist and grief counselor Jack Jordan Ph.D., tells SELF. "Treat [your friend] so you treat anybody you care about who is grieving and in pain."

So, offer your condolences. Attend the funeral if you can. Send flowers and a handwritten note. "This is a difficult and awkward to talk about," Jordan explains. 19659010]. 2 "I know how much you love [their loved one’s name]. This must be so hard. "

Explicitly, the person who dies is a subtle but effective way to convey your support. This tip might seem obvious, but the experts say that the name of the person who died (or "avoiding the relationship with a loved one").

3. Acknowledging who your friend is, rather than sharing it. "I want you to feel safe sharing anything with me. Do you want to talk about it? "

Many myths about suicide persist, like that's a" selfish "act that needs to be hidden. Many survivors of suicide loss have internalized this stigma. They may be reluctant.

"People who are getting someone to suicide are often looking for cues from the people around them," Jordan explains. Instead of assuming your friend, they can talk to you, make that explicit clear.

Samantha Seigler 29, lost her younger brother to suicide seven years ago. "I like having somebody to talk to about it," she tells SELF, explaining that it may be as simple as someone asking, "How are you doing?" Or, "Do you want to tell me how you're feeling?"

. 4 "It's OK if you do not want to talk about this now. I'm here to listen whenever. "

Whether your friend is preoccupied with what's on their plate or still in shock, they might not be ready to talk about the suicide yet. "You do not always have time to grieve right away," Samantha says. "For me, it did not hit for a while."

If that's the case for your friend, they'll probably give you a cue to back off and wait, Wolfelt says. Honor that. Wolfelt says. "Let them know you are ready to listen. And you can always ask again or reiterate your availability. "Stay steady in your efforts," Wolfelt says.


Do not underestimate the power of simple favors. McGann says.

It's most helpful if you're proactive instead of just saying, "I'm here if you need anything," which puts the onus of asking for help on the person who is grieving, McGann says. A few ideas: Bring prepared food, clean the kitchen, help mail, babysit, give their kids a ride-whatever you can to make their life even a little bit easier.

In addition to providing practical support, you ' it's hard to come up with comforting things to say. Wolfelt says.

Samantha said: "Sometimes, when words are inadequate, actions can be made in the weeks following her brother's death. "What a big sense of relief," she says.

6. "I remember that time when …"

"Usually what people grieving for that want to do, especially after they get past the initial shock and confusion, is to remember the person's life-not just their death," Jordan says. McGann explains, "They are thinking of their loved one all the time. "This is Samantha's experience."

"One of the best things about people telling me stories about my brother," she says. "Hearing what he loved about him, he had a good relationship with him. I did not want to remember him by his death or have that define him.

If you can not get a sense of hearing, you may hear a memory, McGann says. Say something like, "I was thinking about a memory of [their loved one’s name]. Can I share it with you?"


It's not unusual for a survivor of suicide to be lost with concern and support right after death, then to watch everyone go back to business as usual a week or two later, Jordan says. In combination with our culture's general hush-hush conventions about grief and suicide, this decline in support can make many people who succumbed to "get over" the death, Wolfelt says.

But grief Wolfett explains, adding that the process is even more complex.

Encourage your friend to mourn at their own pace. Make it clear that you're in the haul, and follow up in the weeks, months, and years after the suicide. Jordan says.

For Samantha, the people who are stuck around to support her long mourning after brother's death really did make the biggest difference. She explains that she helped when she was asked how to do what, if she felt like talking, or if she wanted to grab a meal. Even if they are not up to it,

Now, here are some phrases to avoid:

1. "Oh no, what happened?"

It's natural to be curious about the exact details of how someone took their life or what they said. Asking for details like the one who makes a suicide loss survivor feel like they are a spectacle, McGann says. Samantha found it hurtful and upsetting. "What like, why would that matter to you?"

2. "I know exactly how you feel."

If you've ever lost somebody to suicide, you might feel totally unequipped to relate to your friend's loss. The truth is, you're right, and it's OK to admit. "Never say, 'I just know how you feel,' because you do not," Wolfelt says.

Instead, acknowledge that you can not claim to know what they are going through. [this loss] feels like, "Jordan says," and that there is nothing you can do about it. "This level of honesty and humility is a powerful one Wolft explains.

Samantha suggests saying something like, "I have no idea what you are doing, but I want to be here for you. lost someone to suicide it's OK to mention that, McGann says. If your friend wants to hear more, they'll ask. Still, do not claim to know exactly how they feel.


"When you do not know what to say after a suicide, you might feel tempted to rely on platitudes like", "At least they ' re: not in pain anymore. "

Samantha knew that people meant well when they did told her things like, "It's God's plan," or "It's a better place now." But they did not make us feel better, only misunderstood.

Of course, if that's the case, that's just the beginning of this kid's reassurance.

Being a fully present listener is often more important than figuring out exactly what to say.

Hopefully, this is a great way to start your own life , But remember that listening with compassion and without judgment. "Your friend is hurting, and your role is not to change that. It's to Lean into that, "he explains.

Ultimately, you should not try to fill in the silence or get anxious over landing on the exact" right "words. You can not make things better for your friend, but you can give them your feelings, Wolfelt explains. Sometimes that's enough.


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